PARKERSBURG —Two candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination for a seat on the Third Circuit Family Court.
Judge Annette Fantasia is the incumbent and is facing a challenge in the May 13 primary from Willamstown attorney Brian C. Dempster.
Judge Darren Tallman, a Republican incumbent, is unopposed in the primary.
Fantasia is running for her first eight-year term on the family court bench. She is completing her first term, a shorter six-year term, which was done to have the family court elections coincide with the circuit court elections.
Prior to her service in the family court, Fantasia was a family law master, the system which preceded the family court in West Virginia.
Fantasia said the courts moved to an expanded facility with the opening of the new Judge Black Courthouse Annex. She said the courts and the Wood County Commission worked together to plan a facility that met the specifications the state Supreme Court set for family courts. The Wood County facility has room to expand in the event the state would appoint a third judge to the circuit.
In 2009, Fantasia said Wood County will have the Child-based Parent Education Program, which will be a six-week course to teach parents how to work out custody problems without having to come back to court to resolve problems.
Fantasia said the classes fit in with her goal for the next eight years to see the court work more closely with the Department of Health and Human Services and Child Protective Services to be more effective in helping families and to stop child abuse and neglect.
“We can work together to get them the resources to help families stay together,” she said. “Get them help and counseling to help them stay intact.”
Fantasia said in her career she has had an interest in law as it pertains to families and children.
“When I started I practiced general law in the office of R. Vance Golden, but I also had cases in family law,” she said.
Fantasia is a graduate of West Virginia University and the West Virginia University College of Law. She was first appointed as family law master in 1992, when that system was established. At the time the law masters handled cases from Wood, Wirt, Pleasants and Ritchie counties. In 2000, all the law masters were appointed as family court judges and they were elected to office in 2002. In 2009, the circuits will be changed and the Third Circuit will handle only Wood and Pleasants counties.
Dempster, 48, is a Williamstown native and a graduate of Marietta High School. He is the son of the late William Dempster and Elizabeth Dempster, and has one sister.
Dempster said the most important thing is to be fair in each case.
“My goal on the bench is to be as fair and impartial and courteous as I can to those would appear before me,” he said. “It’s the most important thing. I take it seriously.”
Dempster said he has been interested in the court for some time. He said he will be open suggestions on ways to make the court more efficient.
“If elected I will be open to suggestions from the bar and the public,” he said.
Dempster graduated from Marietta College in 1983 with a degree in political science. After college he worked at the family-owned business, the Ohio Valley Grocery Co., Inc. and WMGP-FM in Parkersburg and later at WRRR-FM in St Marys. He continued working at the St. Marys station during summers while he was in law school.
Dempster received his law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1988 and was admitted to the state bar the same year. He was an assistant prosecuting attorney in Wood County from 1988 to 1990, was in private practice from1990 to 2002 and 2007 to present. He was also Wood County Mental Hygiene Commissioner from 1993 to 1996 and a staff attorney at the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission from 2002 to 2005. He is a life member, National Eagle Scout Association, and a vestryman at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Marietta, Ohio.